Hard work always pays off -- just not always in the ways we expect.
When a 13-year old Lee Getzelman started a summer lawn-care business, he thought he'd score some hard-earned cash. What he ended up with was this 1932 Ford coupe -- not a bad return on the investment.
"A little old lady lived across the street from our house. She hired me to mow 3 acres of grass," the Hampshire resident said.
One hot afternoon, the lady's son met Getzelman in the yard. "He was intrigued after seeing my dad's classic cars come and go from our garage." So Getzelman offered the son a peek at the restored family cruisers.
During this visit, the son revealed some news. He told the Getzelman family he had a vehicle in a barn in Wisconsin. "It was sitting for so long he couldn't remember the make, model or year," Getzelman said. All the neighbor could remember is he had purchased the car in 1965 from a seller in Wheaton.
Getzelman and his dad made a trip to see the forlorn relic, which turned out to be a 1932 Ford five-window coupe.
"As a kid, I loved the car movies and especially 'American Graffiti,' " Getzelman said. The young enthusiast was mesmerized by the film's bad-to-the-bone yellow '32 hot rod. When his father told Getzelman this barn find was the same auto as the character Milner drove, "I had to have it," he said.
The going rate for grass cutting wasn't enough to pay for the Ford. Sensing the opportunity for a father-son build, Getzelman's father chipped in the rest.
After dismantling the tired heap, it became obvious much care and attention was needed to get it back on the road. "In its heyday, the car was an old drag racer. With the body removed from the chassis, we could see both had been hacked up and welded quite bit to make it fit for competition."
The original frame rails were too far gone and unfit to rebuild. A new chassis was secured to serve as the perfect foundation for the project. New body components were hand fabricated by the craftsmen including floor panels, the firewall, deck lid and rear quarter panels.
"I saved my money and slowly put the car together as the funds allowed," Getzelman said. His dream was for a proper hot rod, which is anything but stock.
As such, further modifications came by way of a 3-inch roof chop and a lengthened front end. A rowdy 355-cubic-inch V-8 was installed underhood while the body was painted dark blue.
"Safety was a big concern for Dad. We took the factory wood framing out of the body and installed a steel tubing roll cage. It's like a hidden super structure behind the upholstery."
A custom overhaul was performed on the interior, which still retains the original dashboard. An education milestone brought even more changes.
"All my high school graduation (gift) money went toward the painted flames and a supercharger."
As the project honed his skill set, Getzelman tackled more complex projects. For a truly unique look, he fabricated the hood scoop. Two more rounds of changes and modifications came in 2000 and again in 2003 before the vehicle emerged in its final state.
"The last touches were bigger Torque Thrust 2 polished wheels and a glossy DuPont Candy Blue paint job," he said.
Money can't buy happiness, but with serious time and investment, Getzelman's lawn-mowing job has grown into one smile-producing dream machine.
"I've been driving it since I was 16 and have accumulated so many special memories of time with Dad."